"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." -- John 3:16. God is Love. God loves you! Enough said. =)
Monday, November 30, 2020
12 Days of Christmas Joy: The Introduction for this holiday series
Devotionals for the Heart: Our Superhero is the Savior of the World
Our Ultimate Superhero
A devotional by Tema Banner
You ever wonder why we humans are so enamored with superheroes?
Growing up, Superman was one of my favorites, although I also watched a fair amount of Batman. We always want to see them win! We might think it is the end, and when we fear that they are never going to come back, somehow, they survive.
There is something in us that makes us want a superhero, a savior. Not just someone who can overcome the simple ills we suffer, but one who can overcome insurmountable odds. When it looks like all hope is lost, the end has come, and the world is doomed, when there is no way the world may be rescued, the superhero will come along and make everything right.
It is in our DNA. God has put that desire in us for a superhero, a savior. Someone who can never be killed, never lose, even when it looks like the end has come, and the bad guy has won, our superhero overcomes! He delivers the world from certain destruction. He restores order to our lives and gives us hope.
That is what Jesus Christ did and continues to do for us every day in REAL life! God sent His Son Jesus to be the Ultimate Savior, our hero, overcomer, provider ... and He is unbeatable!
When Jesus came to live and minister on this Earth, He showed us the love of the Father. He healed the sick, the lame, the blind. He taught us to seek the Kingdom of Heaven, and to love others. He fulfilled the Old Testament in living color. Then he died on the cross, and like the true Superhero He is, He rose from the dead.
Can you image how His disciples felt? They had been with Him for three years. Seeing Him on The Cross of Calvary, they must have thought, “This is it; this is the end.” They had wonderful ideas and aspirations that Jesus was going to be a military ruler and king. The one who would set the Jews free from oppression (at that time, the Roman Empire was the oppressor). Then He was hung on a cross and He died. How disappointed they must have been to watch him die. They thought all their hope was gone!
But that was only the beginning of the story. God has a bigger plan than what we have imagined.
The Scriptures tell us that everything that we can see is temporary and it is what we cannot see that is permanent. There is a lot that we do not see. When the disciples saw that Jesus was no longer in the tomb where His dead body had been laid, they were puzzled. It was when they saw Him alive afterwards, that they realized He had been raised from the dead and that all that Jesus had been telling them about was spiritual. He had been speaking to them of permeance, far beyond the simple things they could see. It was not only for their day and time, it was for eternity.
That is what Jesus did for us when He came back. He saved us! He is a permanent Savior. He did overcome death, and all obstacles of sin that separate us from God. Be careful not to let the temporary things of this world blind you to the permanence of the next.
It is simple: When sin separated us from God, God made a way to eliminate the separation. He did that by sending Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.
When we realize that we are separated by our sin and that we need a bridge to get to God, Jesus becomes that bridge. We are saved by the Grace of God by the death of Jesus and His resurrection and our acceptance of Him as our Savior (John 3:16-17).
Jesus is our Ultimate Superhero! He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, all forgiving and all compassionate. Jesus is, a REAL superhero in a world where all others are imaginary creations made from our longing for a true superhero who will restore us to fellowship with God. Jesus fulfills our true needs and restores hope.
The good news is that Jesus fulfills our true needs and restores hope! Thank God for Him!
Let’s Pray: Thank you God for showing us Your great love for us by sending Jesus to save us. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and teach us. May we be filled with Your Holy Spirit and reflect Your love to this fallen world. In Jesus’s Name we pray, Amen.
Tema has served as past President and Secretary as well as holding various chair positions. She is the honored recipient of the Harold Lowery Service Award, presented by the Carolina Romance Writers.
God has gifted her with a loving husband, two children and three grandchildren who are the delight of her life. In her spare time, she gardens and digs into genealogy for nuggets to use in her stories.
Connect with Tema:
Friday, November 27, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Giving Thanks to God in All Circumstances
Giving Thanks for Trouble
A devotional by Amy Odland
As I sat at the computer reading and researching about COVID-19 back in the beginning of March, I knew this year was going to be hard, but like many of you probably, I never could’ve imagined all the battles we have faced since then.
Shortages of supplies we used to take for granted, misinformation about COVID-19 and an election, racial injustices, political unrest, family and friends quarreling, and so many deaths – deaths experienced in isolation because we can’t mourn gathered together like we usually get to – are all things we’ve been battling on top of just trying to do daily life. We may be arguing about a lot of things right now, but one thing we can all agree on is the fact we are having quite a bit of trouble in the US right now.
Job, a man of integrity who served God faithfully, knew trouble as well. He lost seven sons, three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and several servants all in one day. Shortly after, he developed painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then he had three friends show up who tried to comfort him by telling him it was all his fault, that he or his kids or ancestors must have messed up bad. There’s a whole book of the Bible telling his story aptly named “Job.”
After going back and forth with his “miserable comforters” and arguing his innocence, Job finally got to the point where he demanded from God a reason for his suffering. God answered and Job was humbled and realized he didn’t know everything. It is interesting to point out that like Job, most of us don’t question our faith when things are hunky-dory. We start asking the big questions when things are hard.
Jesus Christ warned us that things would be hard, even after saying his yoke was easy and burden was light (Matthew 11:30 NIV). Following Him wasn’t going to be the Disney Fast Pass religious equivalent for helping us skate through life. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). The “things” He’d told His disciples right before saying this included why He had to leave, how the Holy Spirit would be coming to help them, and that they’d mostly likely be killed by those believing they were serving God – not exactly comforting thoughts.
Not comforting, that is, until we get to the last thing he says in that verse and also if we were to continue reading in John 17—He has overcome the world. He has overcome everything … loneliness, anxiety, depression, abuse, cancer, persecution, quarreling, war, ignorance, stubbornness, doubt, and death via his dying on the cross and raising again three days later.
Like Job, we can have doubt creep in during our difficult times, doubt that causes us to question God with endless why’s. Commentaries say that Job’s faith was stronger after his tribulation but does that mean our trials and struggles are purposed to test our faith, to make it, and us, stronger? Or are they for bringing us to God because we have been resisting Him despite all the signs of His existence all around us? Maybe it is sometimes for both but either way, Jesus says He has overcome all the horrible things we will experience.
While we may not know the “why” behind the current turmoil created by COVID-19 in 2020, we can listen to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NIV):
Paul had been through boat wrecks, arrests, beatings, and hosts of other physical and mental trials during his ministry, yet he says to give thanks in all circumstances. He had experienced far worse than struggling to find toilet paper or wearing a mask or waiting 17 weeks for a specific part for a broken dishwasher to finally be in stock so it can be repaired. If he could say to give thanks in everything by that point in his life, we should listen carefully to his words.
Many of us have seen hardships this year far more serious than what we used to think were hardships, yet Job could still probably one-up us with his personal story of “This one time...”
Despite his suffering, Job was kept blameless because he was obedient. Giving thanks for the hardships is our act of obedience that also strengthens or renews our faith and keeps us blameless until the coming of our Lord. The one who calls you is faithful to keep you blameless and He will do it if you continue to hold on to what is good and give thanks in all circumstances.
Let’s Pray: Lord, thank you for your faithfulness to all generations. Thank you for remaining the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow no matter what is happening in the world. Help me with my doubt. Give me strength to continue believing You and Your promises. Help me give thanks for all things, even the bad, as they are things You can rework to bring about a good I don’t understand right now. Guide me and give me wisdom in all things so I may remain blameless until the time of Your return and thank you for making me blameless despite my sins and shortcomings. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
Amy Odland has been serving in church ministry as a volunteer leader for over 16 years, in various worship, prayer and women’s ministry roles.
Her passion for helping women stems from her own struggles and lessons learned in her journey as a Christian since first deciding to follow the Lord in 1994.
Amy’s priorities after her faith include her family — husband Rick, and their four kids — as well as extended family who all live close in proximity and the many friends she’s made over the years.
In addition to a love of teaching and helping her husband with the bookkeeping for their many businesses, Amy has recently expanded her stay-at-home work to include leading author’s book launch teams for publishing companies like Baker, Revell, Barbour, and Lifeway.
She also enjoys teaching new authors about platform building, self-launching, and online marketing.
Connect with Amy:
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Injecting HOPE into our hurting world
God Is Moving
A devotional by Julia Wilson
I have read this passage from Luke, which echoes Isaiah 61:1-2, many times over the years, and from different translations. It is a familiar passage and one of my favourites. God’s Word is alive and last week as I read the above, I saw it with fresh eyes. “This is God’s year to act!” really leapt out at me. How we need a movement of God right here and now.
Like the rest of the world, 2020 in the UK has been a year like no other. As I write, we are at the start of another national lockdown. No one knows what lies ahead but we do not need to worry because God is already there. God sees all our tomorrows. Nothing surprises God.
Our nation and our world needs a movement of God now. We are His mighty warriors! We need to inject hope into our hurting world.
Our pastor, Leon Evans, gave us some wise advice. He recommended starting and ending each day with the Word of God and not the news.
When we look to the world we can easily become down and depressed. No one knows when COVID-19 will end. But when we look to God, He gives us hope. He is alive and active. If we do not tune into Him, we might miss Him. We need lives that recognize His voice and His movements.
“This is God’s year to act!” God is acting. Within our church, people have come to faith during this lockdown season caused by the pandemic. They have done Alpha (a course that explores the Christian faith), joined connect groups and experienced God … yet, some have never stepped foot inside the church.
God is not confined to a building. God is alive and active everywhere!
Have you ever stood and witnessed a sunrise or sunset and just been overwhelmed by the beauty of it all? I certainly have.
I have also been struck by the love of God while doing ordinary household chores. My response was to be to get down on my knees on the kitchen floor and to worship and thank God right there and then. If I had waited, I would have missed the moment.
We have the whole world that needs a reason to hope now. We have a world that needs to know God. Jesus Christ tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NIVUK). This is our mission. Our neighborhood is our mission field. During times of lockdown we cannot travel far. However, we do not need to go overseas to find people who need a touch of God. We need to seek and save the lost in our neighborhoods and towns!
This is God’s year to act! Will you partner with Him and inject hope into our world today?
Please may I lead you in a prayer?
Let’s pray: Dear Lord, Thank you for dying for me. Help me to live for You. Open my eyes to the world around me. Show me who needs to hear from You. Give me eyes to see our hurting world as You see it. Give me hands to do Your work. Thank You for Your presence and Your promise to never leave us nor forsake us. In Jesus’s precious name I pray. Amen.
My name is Julia Wilson but I also go by Christian Bookaholic.
I live with my husband and five cats in a small town in Worcestershire on the banks of the River Severn (England). We have four grown up children and three granddaughters.
I have always loved reading and have always been surrounded by books. I used to work as a teaching assistant for special needs in the local high school. Ill health forced me to stop working in December 2015. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (known as M.E.) and fibromyalgia. I now have plenty of time to read and review books!
Our eldest son set up my Christian Bookaholic blog. I review every book I read. I read over 300 books a year. I read Christian and mass market. I prefer stories set from 1850 onwards. My favourite type of books to read is stories set in WWI and WWII, and Russia under Czar Nicholas II.
I am a historian, having a Combined Humanities degree where I majored in History and minored in English. I also love swimming. I only learned how to swim in 2017 and go swimming four mornings a week for 90 minutes before breakfast, it keeps my joints going.
I am also a crazy cat lady. I absolutely love my cats. I have grown up with cats and cannot imagine life without them. My dream is to own an old fashioned seal point Siamese … but not while we have our young rescue cat as she hates other cats!
I love God and love going to a large lively church called Lifecentral. I cannot imagine life without God. He gives a peace even when life does not. He guides my life. He is my Rock.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Romantic Reads: Kiss Me Once Again (book) by Gail Kittleson
When Glenora Carson’s story first came to me, I didn’t anticipate writing a romance. This World War II tale evolved into just that, however.
Romance has never excited me because I like more complicated stories. Girl gets guy—that’s the basic plotline, right? Well, maybe I had a thing or two to learn.
World War II complicated everything. When you’re worried that a brother, sister, or parent may not return from battle, the entire setting burgeons with obstacles.
Egotistical commanders may make haphazard decisions that lead to needless deaths. The enemy may change tactics and surprise a unit. (This occurred in North Africa when Rommel shocked American commanders by reversing his course.)
On the home front, wild things can happen, as well. In Glenora’s case, just when she thought she had most things managed, her father’s health began to decline. Worry about her brother Red’s ship being struck by a typhoon in Nakagusuku Wan, near Okinawa, most likely had something to do with that.
Time has dragged on since then, with no word about Red. Is he still alive? If he ever comes home, will he be able to marry his high school sweetheart and take Glenora’s place at their father’s garage? That was his plan before December 7, 1941, but so much has happened in the interval.
For one thing, Glenora has been filling his spot there...will she have to continue wielding her wrench and pliers for the rest of her life? She’s already sacrificed her college scholarship and dreams of teaching home economics to keep the garage open.
Then, out of the blue, a convalescing soldier named Hank returns to town. With his bent for mechanics, his uncle volunteers him to help out at the garage. Thankful she can now devote her time to organizing the books, Glenora attempts to add more figures to the “paid” column.
Relieved of crawling under broken-down tractors and farm trucks to diagnose and fix problems, Glenora can now pay more attention to her other tasks...housekeeping, gardening, and contributing to the war effort in every way possible. When her mother died a few years ago, all of these responsibilities fell to her—there simply aren’t enough hours in her day.
Hank brings relief with him, but also another complication. Back in 1941 when her beau went down with the Arizona, Glenora buried her dreams of romance and having a family of her own. Hank’s presence in the shop urges those dreams to surface, but he seems bent on his own dream of studying under the G.I. Bill as soon as the war ends.
On top of that, he’s kind, honest, tenderhearted, and a good worker. If that weren’t enough, he also has a way with her dad.
This is where my plot led me...right into the complications of romance! I hope you like this old-fashioned World War II story.
Writing has always been Gail’s passion, but building her self-confidence took decades, so she’s a late-bloomer.
Gail and her husband live in northern Iowa and enjoy Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country in the winter. They also enjoy grandchildren and gardening. It’s no secret why Gail calls her website Dare to Bloom, and she loves to encourage other writers through facilitating workshops.
Book Blurb for Kiss Me Once Again:
After December 7, 1941, Glenora shelves her dreams of attending college on the scholarship she was offered by Iowa State University, locks her heart away, and focuses on holding down the home front by helping out the family business—Carlson’s Garage. The grease-stained overalls didn’t do much to compliment her female. figure, but they did cover her female heart well enough.
That is, until Hank Anderson, a wounded warrior back from battle, walks into the garage and into Glenora’s life. Is an old maid’s future Glenora’s fate, or will Cupid throw a wrench in her plans?
Buy Gail's book on Amazon
Connect with Gail:
Monday, November 23, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Life lessons learned from a puppy named Halo
Bound to God
A devotional by Glynis Becker
We have a sweet rescue poodle named Halo. She’s been part of our family for the last seven years. She was a stray, so we have no idea where she came from, how old she is, or what her life was like before us.
For many years after we got her, when we went to put her on her leash to go for a walk, she would pull and jump and twist for blocks and blocks. (Her penchant for turning circles is what gave us the idea for her name.) She would wrap herself up in the leash and we’d have to stumble around her and stop every so often to untangle her. It was annoying, and funny, and sometimes a little dangerous. We would look at her and say with great affection, “Halo! Why can’t you just be normal? Why can’t you just walk with us?”
Now that she is older, her eyesight is starting to dim. She can’t see where she’s going quite as well, so when we put the leash on her, she isn’t quite as excited. We sometimes have to pull her along beside us. Because of her lowered energy level and partial blindness, she isn’t as comfortable walking in unfamiliar places. She is more easily scared. So these days we say, still with great affection, “Halo! Why can’t you just let us lead you? Trust us. We won’t let you get hurt.”
How like our walk with the Lord is this? When things are new and the days are filled with sunshine, we get excited to be on the path with Him. We let Him lead us in His way, full of passion for the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is. Passion for the lost, love for our fellow humans and a need to be close to Christ take over our lives and we’re happy to go where He wants us to.
But as the days get darker and we’ve been on this path longer and longer, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the Lord is still leading us. The more we read the Bible and pray, we should learn that we need Him more, not less. We should learn that being tied to Him is the best place to be. But sometimes we need to be dragged into something new or different or uncomfortable. Or we wander “off the leash” and find our own kind of trouble.
Today I’m praying that I allow God to lead me wherever and to whatever He has for me. I don’t want to miss His call on my life because I’m too busy pulling at the leash.
This image makes me think of the classic hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” One line from the lyrics written by Robert Robinson says:
I don’t want to be bound to anything that isn’t eternal. Only God’s grace, like in this hymn, can give me everything I need to walk with Him. That is what will lead me where He wants me to go.
Let’s pray: Dear Lord, bind me to You. No matter how hard I might push back, remind me that You know and want what is best for me. I want to love Your grace more than the things of the world. Help me trust that even if You lead me into something hard, you will never leave me to face it alone. Make my words be a light to others that will lead them to You as well. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Glynis Becker writes devotions and inspirational fiction, hoping someday to have a published novel on her resume.
She has co-written several screenplays, including the film Sinking Sand, available on DVD and digital streaming.
Glynis, whose childhood was spent all over the country as an Air Force brat, has called South Dakota home for many years, along with her husband and two teenage children.
When she’s not writing or reading, she is watching more television than she should and crocheting.
You can find her at www.glynisbecker.com.
Friday, November 20, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Brokenness
A devotional by Alexis Newlin
There is a lot of brokenness in our nation. Racial clashes, political differences, poverty, divorce, gun violence, injustice; it is everywhere and happening every day.
These are subjects I am afraid to talk about or acknowledge. I don’t watch or read the news often. When I do, I find myself anxious and overwhelmed by it all. When I hear stories about injustice in our country, I get so angry. I hate the brokenness. I wrestle often with what action to take. Sometimes the action that I take is ignoring it but I know that this is incorrect.
Recently I watched a video where the artist expressed how he felt about the brokenness in our nation. It made me sad; even now I tear up writing about it. It was hard to watch as it displayed the brokenness that our nation has struggled with for decades. It is sad that there is so much division, violence and hatred. God didn’t intend for any of this.
Let’s read some Bible verses about what God wants for humankind:
He calls us to love one another: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34 ESV)
He meant for us to be united: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 ESV)
Division is the plan of the enemy: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25 ESV).
I asked God what my portion is in all of this, because ignoring isn’t an option. God said a few things: Pray. Love others. Speak up.
I will pray that we are united as a nation – despite our differences – and I will pray that all plans from the enemy to destroy us as a nation be destroyed. I will make a choice daily to love others and seek to understand beliefs different from my own. I will choose to see the person, not their color, sexual orientation, economic status, political preference or religion. Even if my voice trembles, I will speak out against injustice.
As children of God, we are called to love anyway. This is how we unite our nation. This is how we defeat division. Today, think of ways that you can love others despite differences. We are so much stronger together. Divided we will fall.
Alexis is a 36-year-old lover of Jesus, loose leaf tea, roller coasters, writing stories and going on adventures. Originally from Marietta, GA, Alexis now resides in Fresno, CA.
You can always find Alexis outdoors enjoying a walk in her neighborhood, scoping out the newest food truck, hanging out with friends or planning her next trip.
Her church, The Revival Center, and family mean the world to her. They have supported her through the loss of her mother and her own cancer diagnosis.
Alexis enjoys encouraging others by reminding them not to look at what they see, but to always look to God, who is working in the unseen.
Alexis currently writes for several online ministries and launched her first podcast – The Brave Podcast – in January 2020.
Connect with Alexis:
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Humility
Humble in Heart
A devotional by Christa MacDonald
The world is in crisis. It’s been there before and will likely be there again, but this is the first worldwide crisis I’ve ever lived through, and it’s...a lot.
Between politics, social upheaval, and a deadly pandemic, it’s downright fractious in our country right now, even outside a high-risk bubble. Folks are hot-tempered, and shouty, even those of us who claim a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not good. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to live through this mess of existential dread, stress, and difficulty. When faced daily with a new challenge, I keep thinking of how being a Christian must inform my choices and guide my actions. “Jesus take the wheel” is a fine saying, but what does that truly look like in real life?
We need to start with who Jesus is and what He wants from us. The verse above sums it up for me. Jesus is the Son of God, but He’s also humble in heart and gentle. When we give over our lives to Him, we find rest (not more work, more struggle, more strife). Our job is to be as like Him as possible. Over and over, the New Testament calls us to humble ourselves, live in peace, be patient with our brothers and sisters, bear one another’s burden in love. This is what God wants from us. He wants our love for one another to stand out, to show that we are His. “Agape” in the Greek of the New Testament’s writers, means a non-reciprocal, giving love that doesn’t expect anything back. That’s how God loves us, and that’s how He calls us to love others.
What does that look like in real life? For me, it’s a reminder to be patient with others, to be humble, and when tempted to add my voice to the cacophony, to turn off my computer and put down my phone. I have no business putting that out in the world. As a Christian, I have a reason to resist rising to every insult, holding a grudge, or taking offense. Every moment that I walk through this world, I am a witness for Jesus Christ. I need to live my life in a way that tells others that I am under Jesus’ yoke.
When it gets hard, I try to reach for that peace. The peace of knowing that God is provident and whatever happens, it will be for His Glory and that He will be with me through every second of it. Jesus has not abandoned us to work it out for ourselves. We have Scripture and the Holy Spirit to guide us. Prayer is a wonder.
Christa MacDonald is a 2017 ACFW Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction.
A native New Englander, she was inspired by her travels through the north woods of Maine to write The Broken Trail, which would become the first in the Sweet River Redemption series published by Mountain Brook Ink.
Christa's writing focuses on the real-life challenges of the modern world, love’s sometimes crooked path, and the redemptive power of Grace.
When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, or attempting something crafty.
She and her husband live with their three kids, two cats, and one dog along the coast of New England. Connect with Christa at www.christamacdonald.com.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Romantic Reads: Interview with Anne Greene about "A Crazy Optimist"
Alexis: Why did you write this book and call it A Crazy Optimist?
Anne: I don’t usually write Romantic Comedy, but I love to read that genre. So this is one of my first Romantic Comedies. I found the book so fun to write, that it certainly won’t be my last. The title comes from the heroine Sparkle January’s personality.
Alexis: Sparkle January is quite a creative name! What was the inspiration behind it?
Anne: Her character sprang full-blown into my imagination as well as her name. I always give my books a sprinkle of action, mystery, and adventure, even my comedies.
Alexis: Why did you give Sparkle a passion for pet taxidermy?
Anne: I find taxidermy a bit gruesome and wanted to discover the brighter side, where owners who love their pets want to keep them in as lifelike posture as possible and a fun-loving person like Sparkle was just the woman to do the almost impossible.
Alexis: What’s involved in being a “Professional Maid of Honor” and why did Sparkle choose this new career?
Anne: Sparkle’s acted as Maid of Honor ten times with her friends. She knows the ropes. She takes the Diva from feuding friends and smooths the unexpected last-minute bumps that inevitably occur during the stress of weddings. Also, in New York, some brides don’t have a best friend she can ask to be her Maid of Honor, so Sparkle happily fills the gap.
Alexis: Why did Sparkle move to New York City? Where did she live originally?
Anne: Sparkle is from Podunk-Town, Texas and moved to New York looking for adventure.
Alexis: How did Sparkle first meet Nick Patrizio?
Anne: Sparkle has Directional Dyslexia which means she has absolutely no sense of direction. She claims she gets lost in a revolving door. When she arrived in New York, Nick rescued her by carting her nine bags to an apartment near his restaurant after she’d taken the wrong subway, then the wrong bus.
Alexis: What is it about Nick that compels Sparkle to pour her heart out to him over coffee quite often?
Anne: Nick fell in love with Sparkle the first moment he saw her. He gladly listens to her each day when she drops in for coffee and to tell him her troubles. He suggests that she turn down the job of being a Professional Hugger.
Alexis: Paint a picture with words of Harvey’s On The Harbor. What makes it special?
Anne: Harvey’s has a huge bay window overlooking the sun-tossed harbor. Nick fills his restaurant with the scent of gardenia and savory spaghetti sauce. Nick and his listening ear make the place special. Besides, Sparkle can only afford his highly aromatic coffee, and what other New York restaurant would give her coffee order a warm welcome rather than a cold shoulder?
Alexis: Why does Sparkle believe that she is an “ugly duckling” and not a beautiful swan?
Anne: She’d been a Maid of Honor at her ten friends’ weddings, why did she not have a fiancé? Her hair was a dishwater color and she’d gained weight since moving to New York. Her posh hair stylist called her mousy until he got his hands on her. Didn’t date much at Texas Tech. Majored in Meteorology but was told she was too fat to be on television.
Alexis: Let’s talk about Nick. What makes him tick? Describe his looks, personality, and his outlook on life.
Anne: Nick has six sisters and no brothers. He’s an almost handsome guy who loves to smile and was honest and sincere. On a scale of one to ten, at least a seven. He grew up Catholic, but became a Christian
Alexis: What is it about Sparkle that made Nick fall in love with her at first sight?
Anne: He loved her sparkling personality.
Alexis: What is the basis for Nick and Sparkle’s friendship?
Anne: Open honesty, especially while Sparkle is unaware of Nick’s love.
Alexis: Does Sparkle have a clue that Nick is in love with her? Why or why not?
Anne: No. She thinks he is her best friend.
Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this story?
Anne: First, I want them to laugh and enjoy the story. Then as Sparkle discovered, dates come and go, but a best friend is forever. Marriage is built on honest communication, shared ideals, and sharing of secrets—even if the secret could change the married life. But if one is really in love, one will accept the sacrifice and marry to give the loved one the best possible life.
Alexis: If you could step into this story as a professional counselor, what advice would you give Sparkle and Nick about life, love and their relationship?
Anne: I don’t think they need a professional counselor. I think they solved the problem themselves.
Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Anne! Do you have closing comments?
Anne: I love talking with my readers. I hope they will go to my website and sign up for my newsletter, so we can keep in touch. https://www.annegreeneauthor.com/
Thank you so much, Alexis for visiting with me.
Anne Greene lives in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, a few miles north of Dallas. Her husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. Her little brown and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares her writing space, curled at her feet.
Whether writing contemporary or historical, Anne’s books celebrate the abundant life.
Anne is an award-winning author of twenty-nine books. She loves writing about alpha heroes who aren’t afraid to fall on their knees in prayer, and about gutsy heroines. She hopes her stories transport you to awesome new worlds and touch your heart.
Her first book in her CIA Operatives series opens with Shadow of the Dagger. Her Women of Courage series spotlights heroic women of World War II. Blast off with Angel With Steel Wings. Her Holly Garden, Private Investigator series opens with Red Is For Rookie.
Book Blurb for A Crazy Optimist:
This Romantic Comedy stars a Crazy Optimist who owns a Pet Taxidermy shop and supplements her income by becoming a Professional Maid Of Honor.
Sparkle January recently moved to New York City. She finds a best friend in Nick Patrizio, whose Harvey’s On The Harbor restaurant is around the corner from Sparkle’s apartment. She visits Harvey’s daily, not to eat, but to tell her troubles to Nick and drink coffee.
Sparkle finds that building both her new professions brings unexpected difficulties and dilemmas. And she’s intent on transforming herself from Ugly Duckling into Acceptable Swan.
Connect with Anne:
To learn more of Anne, join her newsletter, and view her art and pictures of her extensive travel, visit her at www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com.
Anne’s books are available at www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com.
To contact Anne, visit her at www.facebook.com/AnneWGreeneAuthor.
To view Anne’s books go to www.annegreeneauthor.com/anne-s-books.html.
Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below:
Monday, November 16, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Peace
Blanketed by Peace
A devotional by Malinda Fugate
As the minutes of election night ticked on, my anxiety grew. I would be able to react to one outcome or the other, but the unknown and waiting weighed on existing anxieties already plaguing my soul. It was as if the tumultuous year of 2020 had reached its ripeness, fully ready for a harvest of stress and worry.
My hands needed something to do to keep me from obsessively checking for electoral map updates. A bag of yarn and crochet hook sat nearby, inviting me into the lull of repetitive stitching. Not long ago, I decided to turn my leftover scraps into a blanket, mixing odd colors together in a mismatched blend. As I looped yarn over hook and slipped each stitch into place, a calming rhythm developed. The soft beginnings of a blanket covered my lap with comforting warmth. Temporarily forgetting the drama unfolding at polling places around the country, I was able to just be present in the safety of my cozy apartment.
With my hands busy at yarn work, my thoughts were able to focus on the Lord. I echoed my continuous prayer that His will is done in our nation, that His righteous wisdom would guide our leaders. I confessed how helpless I felt and how concerned I was with possible outcomes. Little by little, I became aware of His presence. God’s promises overrode my what-ifs and the tightness in my chest loosened a bit.
The interesting thing about my crochet project is that every stitch builds a bit more blanket. My anxious energy was being directed into the movement of the yarn, resulting in something that I will soon be able to wrap around myself for coziness and reassurance. Like the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold, I was crocheting anxiety into comfort.
Yet, a security blanket only comforts the surface. Praise God, He comforts the heart. Each moment in prayer is like another stitch in the blanket as the Lord covers us with His peace. We give Him our worries and He exchanges them for serenity. At times, this exchange seems slower than we would like in our instant gratification world, but with each prayer, His solace increases.
We find promises in His word that remind us that He is in control and working for our good.
We find that in prayer with thanksgiving, we begin to see our situation from God’s point of view. Little by little He reveals His perspective and plan. When we see His goodness, we discover more peace.
Though joy seems far away when our hearts are troubled, we gradually find glimpses of rejoicing the longer we rest in His presence. He brings gladness in place of mourning.
When we learn to exist in His presence constantly and not merely occasionally, we find lasting peace unhindered by anxieties and fear. Yes, worries can still pester at the edges of our thoughts, but with eyes on God’s big picture, we recognize that they are smaller than we once imagined. We perpetually hand them over to God and receive His comfort in exchange. He wraps our heart in peace beyond comprehension, in the security of His love.
Malinda Fugate writes from the heart.
Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words published in books.
Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays.
Malinda invites you to explore the various 3:16s in the Bible with her new book, The Other Three Sixteens (published by Ambassador International in May 2020).
She also invites you to read her previously published books: Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon.com, and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God, which is an interactive creative writing journal.
Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, and then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.
When she's not writing or working at church, Malinda might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area. She lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.
Visit Malinda online via https://www.malindafugate.com.
Friday, November 13, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Joy and peace that can only come from God
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
The biblical book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul, a Jewish man of Greek culture and Roman citizenship. He was smart and erudite. He claims to have been educated in the school of Gamaliel, which was an academic prep school of Jewish law for Pharisees.
We know that he was ardent, passionate and persuasive with more than a dash of sociopathy. We know this because of his pursuit and persecution of early Christians. But then he met the risen Jesus Christ on Damascus road. Over the course of time, he gained the confidence of the burgeoning group of Christians and became the most prolific of the Christian evangelists.
As he matured in his experience with his new friend Jesus Christ, he became less legalistic and more filled with grace, peace, joy and hope. This became his legacy for the church. As I have matured, I too have moved away from legalism and the accusatory, holier than thou, mindset that it incites. Thank you, God!
Now, I understand the intent of true spirituality and how we grow in grace. This verse actually articulates a method or pathway to spiritual effectiveness and power. Clearly, the first step is the acceptance of the implicit foundation of faith that there is a God who is personally concerned with your life and how you impact the world around you.
Because all behavior is based on foundational beliefs, we act upon our belief in God, hoping that the faith is not in vain. As we exercise our hope, we develop confidence. Because we have accumulated positive experiences, we become assured of the presence, guidance, and affirmations of God.
Armed with the confidence of God’s presence and the confidence that it gives, fear and timidity are minimized and peace is magnified and projected. The foundation of fear is a sense of insufficiency. I do not have the strength, confidence or acumen to meet my immediate challenge. But, when you have the confidence that God will not put upon you more than we can bear, we look for that supernatural infusion that meets the need, or the way of dignified escape.
We should not become arrogant, but we should be confident that the welded relationship with God is unbreakable. With that, we stand with internal peace that radiates from us to those around us. To this peace comes the awareness of joy. We can notice the beauty around us, smell the scents of flowers, hear the chirping of the birds in the trees and see artwork in the clouds. This peace is notable. I think of Daniel’s influence in Babylon, even and maybe especially while in the lion’s den.
A few years ago, I became friends with an Arabian Sheikh. He was a member of the Court of the King of Bahrain. He invited me to his home and sent a chauffeur to pick me up. After we chatted for an hour, he had his personal chef bring us some tea and snacks. As it turns out, we appreciated the same snacks. Before our meeting adjourned, he told me that he had a friend that I had to meet, then he stepped out of the room.
After a few moments, I heard a dog barking and running down the hallway to the parlor where I was sitting alone. I hoped that it would not be a big, dangerous dog. It was a Springer Spaniel. He bounded across the cavernous room and I spoke to him and put my hand near the floor. He slid to a stop on the marble floor, right at my hand and rolled over for me to rub his chest. The Sheikh came into the room and was startled. He called his wife to come and see the dog contentedly allowing me to pet him.
The Sheikh said to me, “If he likes you that much, I must do the same. You will always be welcomed in our home.” He then introduced me to his wife. I think that the dog ratified to the Sheikh that I was a godly man of peace and joy. When your life is moving up the pathway of peace, the world and all therein recognize it. That is the overflow that Paul mentions in the next phrase. Some may accept and revel in your hope, peace and joy. Others may challenge you. If they do, stay planted in your faith and experience. Look for the overflow of joy!
I have often said that “if the fulfillment of your dreams does not require the miraculous intervention of God, it is too small.” I think this may have been what the apostle Paul meant when he used the phrase “overflow with hope.”
Every morning when God wakes you to start a new day, I advise you to do this: Check your hope, peace and joy. Open your spirit so that what God has given to you can flow into the life experience of others.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Love Scale
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove
Belief in Jesus Christ offers forgiveness, and the clean slate He gives is the opportunity to turn from bad behavior and start new. Like a baby learning to walk, new habits are hard to create! We fall down time and again. How do we know if progress is being made toward living this new life when we keep messing up? Perhaps we could use a tool of measurement – a Love Scale.
A mentor introduced me to a Christ-based relapse prevention curriculum, years ago when I was volunteering in a residential recovery program for women. This “Genesis Process” walked its students through identifying why they were addicted to substances or self-harming actions and what it would take to walk away, free from that lifestyle. It was possible but it required intentional daily work.
Lives were changed through that process and hearts were healed. Every person who put effort into learning about God, and their relationship to Him, was blessed by improvement in their problems. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” These women entered the program hardened and angry, but they graduated hoping in their bright future and rejoicing in a fresh start in Christ.
One of the tools of the curriculum was a list of relapse warning signs. It was a scale used to identify current thoughts and feelings that would escalate toward degeneration of recovery, if not caught and corrected. This tool was invaluable.
Harmful behavior is not limited to the addict. No one lives perfectly as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV). I struggle with my behaviors despite church attendance, daily Bible study and volunteering in a Christian organization. As much as anyone, I need tools to help me stay on track. I doubted the average person would be comfortable, as I was, using instruments of recovery. So, I prayed, asking for a revelation that would be received by people not in treatment.
Love was the answer to my prayer. Specifically, a scripture that describes the characteristics of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a well-known passage that lists the aspects of living like Christ. I can run my daily concerns through this passage and know immediately where I am stumbling.
My daily concerns include thoughts like these:
Love is patient ... Am I patient with my kids?
Love is kind ... Oh dear, I snapped at my mother!
Love does not envy ... Yesterday I yearned for a life like Amy’s.
This passage becomes a Love Scale, weighing the purity of heart and the progress of walking with Christ. Any heavy burden can be measured by this tool to see where love is lacking, where the holes in trust and faith lie. You have to be willing, however, to hear where you are in the wrong.
The simplicity of belief in Jesus is that treatment for slipping into old patterns is surrender, not trying harder. Unlike the game of Chutes and Ladders, where you slide to the bottom and start back at the beginning, a repentant heart puts you right back at Jesus Christ’s side. We fall and He offers a hand to lift us right back to our feet.
This Love Scale keeps me in check time after time. It’s now on my wall, in a place where I tend to retreat when I’m hurting. I pray for clarity, put my burdens on the scale, and look at the answer.
Where, in your walk with Christ, do you keep tripping up? What situations trigger you? How do you respond? Friend, I encourage you to keep the Love Scale handy. Used with humility, this scripture will guide you in new habits, helping you discover where you are still weak. Jesus is right beside you, encouraging with His words and assisting you as you grow stronger in His way.
Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior.
She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.
Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.
Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.
In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Romantic Reads: When Valleys Bloom Again (book) by Pat Jeanne Davis
Story excerpt from When Valleys Bloom Again by Pat Jeanne Davis
The train station teemed with soldiers and their sweethearts by the time Jim and Abby arrived. Her heart sank like lead under the weight of all the other goodbyes on the platform.
Jim drew her near. “I can see your aunt’s ballroom full of soldiers for one of her events. I’m jealous already.”
Abby tightened her grip around his waist. “Can’t foresee any competition.”
He stroked her cheek. “Just don’t let them hear you sing, and don’t smile too much.”
They went over the footbridge to the quieter side of the platform, keeping an ear out for the announcement of departure. She reached into her purse and handed him a small tinted photograph of them on her graduation day.
Jim broke the silence. “This is more painful than in January when I left for training.”
She nodded, the specter of separation hovering over them threatened to drain away the joy of the past ten days.
The train whistle blew and she jumped, legs trembling. She’d hoped to be prepared for their parting. But she wasn’t. She hated the Japanese for taking Jim away from her.
He snatched up his duffel bag and with his free arm grasped her hand. As they clattered up the metal steps and along the steel-walled gangway over the tracks, their footsteps echoed. Abby shrank from the cold, hard noise. A cloud of steam rose up and engulfed Jim. She tried to drag him back. He pressed on, pulling her behind him, his head turned away, as if heedless of the silent shriek inside her—please don’t go!
They stood together beside the train. “I wish you didn’t ha-ha-have to go,” she said, clasping his hand to the side of her face. Setting his cap straight, she stepped back and flashed a mock salute, determined to be strong for the sake of others here, all brought together by the sorrow of parting—but especially for Jim.
A tight, desperate embrace and a last kiss before Jim hopped onto the bottom rung. The conductor made an inspection of the platform before giving the “All Aboard.” Abby gripped Jim’s arm. Clutching his hand, she ran alongside the rolling train—taking him hundreds of miles away—until she fell behind and had to let go.
The train wiggled out and away from the platform. Long after it had shrunk to a pale silver dot on the blank horizon, Abby stared down the track, hollow inside and unable to will herself away. The crowd dissolved into its melancholy components, and she flowed out with them to the exit.
On her return home, she pulled the drapes across the window before dusk set in, then curled up in a chair, arms wrapped tight around the cushion. Had they made the right decision to wait until after the war to get married? Many of her former classmates were making wedding plans even now. Long after the first owl announced its presence and the chill of night settled in her body, Abby sat there. Not until the egg-yellow light of a new dawn filtered through the window shutters did she fall asleep.
Pat Jeanne Davis has a keen interest in 20th Century United States and British history, particularly the period of World War II. Her longtime interest in that era goes back to the real-life stories she heard about family members who served during the war.
Book Blurb for When Valleys Bloom Again:
As war approaches in 1939 Abby Stapleton’s safety is under threat. Her father, a British diplomat, insists she go back to America until the danger passes.
Jim can’t get Abby out of his mind. Did she have a sweetheart in England? Was it foolish to think she’d consider him? He curses his poverty and the disgrace of his father’s desertion and drunkenness haunts him. Can he learn to believe in love for a lifetime and to hope for a happy marriage?
Abby couldn’t know the war would last a long time, nor that she would fall in love with Jim—soon to be drafted by the U.S.Army—or that she’d have to confront Henri, a rejected suitor, determined by his lies to ruin her reputation and destroy her faith in God’s providence. Will she discover the true meaning of home?
Review of When Valleys Bloom Again (posted to Amazon.com):
4.0 out of 5 stars Great WWII novel
What a story!
First, the cover captured me. It is wonderfully done and really made me want to read the book. Once I started the book I couldn’t put it down as it was just as wonderful as the cover. Jim and Abby are wonderful characters who really draw you into them and make you think you’ve always known them. While Henri makes you love to hate him. That’s the best way to have a villain type character.
WWII is one of my favorite time periods to read about. It intrigues me and I can’t help but read everything I can get my hands on about this time period. This book really piqued my interest because of that but also because I liked the unique storyline. It’s not often you get characters being sent from England to the United States because of the war. I enjoyed this part and seeing what the years right before the US took to war were like here. I thought the inclusion of doubt and questioning God was a good touch as so often I do find myself in those same thoughts over life. It’s good to see that even fictional characters have those doubts.
This is a wonderful debut novel by an author that I am definitely going to be following for more. I highly recommend you give the book a read.
Connect with Pat Jeanne:
Amazon Author Page: https://amazon.com/author/patjeannedavis
Monday, November 9, 2020
Devotionals for the Heart: Life Lessons Learned from Making Banana Cake
A devotional by Wade Webster
My life as a truck driver is fraught with many challenges. One of the main ones is the choice on what I'll eat while out on the road for several days at a time. Truckstop food is better than it used to be but can add up quickly in costs and calories. Squeezing a big rig through a fast food drive thru is a challenge I don't even want to think about.
Growing up relatively poor made me appreciate simple solutions for my meals. Sandwiches are a great option for me. I can make enough to last a week before I leave home. The small fridge in my tractor is a fantastic tool, too. Adding some fruit and nuts makes my diet quite healthy in an occupation known for making its minions fat. I fit it all in a cooler to transport it to work.
That is when I remember to pack everything into said cooler before I exit my apartment. One week, I left my bunch of five bananas on the kitchen counter instead of bringing them along for the ride. When I returned home Friday night they were still waiting patiently for me. They just had less of a green tint and much more of a brownish yellow hue. That's the challenge with bananas, they don't have a long shelf life.
My mom did her best to keep all seven of her children well fed as we grew up. Bananas were an important part of that regimen. When she had to buy yellow ones they would go bad before we could eat them all. No, we didn't throw much food away. She always used those mushy fruits in a recipe that would change their consistency and shelf life.
Fortunately, one of my sisters made a cookbook for me that she put some of mom's favorite recipes in. I found the banana cake recipe and fired up the oven. After putting several of those pieces of cake in the freezer, I ate those bananas for several weeks.
God has a similar challenge when it comes to taking His children home to heaven after our shelf life is completed. The first 10 verses of 2 Corinthians 5 explains in detail how we groan in our current bodies but that God gives us new bodies after we die. Yeah, the older we get the more we groan.
2 Corinthians 5:9 (NLT) gives us a great summary and life goal to reach for. “So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please God.”
So, my friend, groan if you must to make it through your day. It's normal and good.
Remember that a new, pain-free body is waiting for all who accept Jesus Christ into their heart, believe in Him and follow Jesus all the way to Heaven!
Do your best to please our Heavenly Father (God) while in this decaying body here on Earth.
Let's Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for seeing me through another day. Use my aches and pains to remind me of the perfect body you have prepared for me when you bring me Home.
Wade Webster is a farm boy turned city slicker, heathen turned born-again Christian, truck driver turned writer doing his best to point folks to his best friend, Jesus Christ.
He currently lives in Plano, Texas.
Wade is the author of 100 Prayers of a Writer, a book that didn't begin as a book, just weekly prayers to a group of writer friends.
He enjoys spending time in nature, running for exercise and dark chocolate, though not necessarily in that order. Apart from driving 18-wheelers for a living he has a part-time job painting houses on the side...and the front and back and inside.
As a teenager, he told his friends he never wanted to be considered normal. So far he's done a pretty good job of living up to that aspiration.